Net zero

Fuel for thought: how business can make use of hydrogen

40 min listen

How we achieve net zero is more than just a political or environmental decision. It is one that will have huge societal impacts. How we get our energy translates to how we move around, how we heat our homes. It’s a reminder that the energy transition has many trade-offs, as we navigate achieving net zero while protecting the wellbeing of people and industry, especially during a cost-of-living crisis.  Might hydrogen be part of the answer? In this special podcast, The Spectator’s economics editor Kate Andrews speaks with those working in government, NGOs, and industry about how to unlock this technology. She is joined by Chris Stark, Chief Executive of Climate

‘The zealots are turning people off’: Claire Coutinho on net zero and her bond with Rishi Sunak

When Claire Coutinho picked her A-levels in 2002, she received a phone call from her grandmother in India. ‘She could see that I’d not picked medical subjects,’ Coutinho says: she’d gone for maths, history of art and English – a glitch in the matrix for a family that tends to choose medical school. ‘She told me that she may not last very long and it was her final wish that I reconsider.’ Coutinho stuck to plan A; her grandmother lived for another ten years. Last month, at 38, she became one of the youngest secretaries of state in British history. We meet in her soon-to-be-vacated office with a rooftop view

Sunak’s new strategy: hard truths

The last time Tory activists and MPs gathered for their annual party conference, it didn’t end well. Liz Truss had barely checked in to her hotel before she faced a full-on attack from Michael Gove, who started a rebellion against her proposed tax cuts live on air. Truss U-turned on her mini-Budget and cabinet discipline quickly collapsed. ‘It was the worst four days of my life,’ recalls a former Truss aide. Sunak sees the conference as a potential moment of catharsis that could lead to a Tory recovery Rishi Sunak hopes to improve on this admittedly rather low mark. He sees the conference in Manchester as a potential moment of

Rishi Sunak is right to reconsider his green pledges

The old carmakers were slow to realise the potential of electric cars and didn’t innovate. So Elon Musk, an internet tycoon, bought Tesla and stole a march on an entire industry. The internal combustion cohort then rushed to catch up: Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo and Ford all committed to go electric-only by 2030. The problem is that electric cars are expensive, so most drivers still prefer cheaper petrol ones. Ministers came up with a plan to deny people the choice, to pass laws that would ban the sale of new petrol-based cars. Britain has led the world in decarbonising its economy. No other G7 country has done more This always

Net Zero is condemning more Brits to energy poverty

Here’s another great idea from the net zero establishment: only heat your home when it is warm and sunny outdoors. In its Sixth Carbon Budget paper, the government’s Climate Change Committee advises homeowners to turn their heating on in the afternoon, so that they can turn it off again during the evening when demand for electricity is higher. ‘Where homes are sufficiently well-insulated,’ it says, ‘it is possible to pre-heat ahead of peak times, enabling access to cheaper tariffs which reflect the reduced costs associated with running networks and producing power during off-peak times.’ In other words, boil yourself when the outdoor temperature is relatively warm, and with any luck

Letters: Britain’s net-zero ambition problem

Zero ambition Sir: How extraordinary that Ross Clark (‘Carbon fixation’, 20 May) can look at the cut-throat competition to capture the economic gains of the future and conclude that Britain’s problem is an excess of ambition. The USA stands alone as the only G7 nation not to have a net-zero target in law, but is nonetheless spending billions to achieve it. The country’s Inflation Reduction Act has proved so popular with the market that it is leveraging trillions more of private investment than previously expected, the majority in Republican-led states. Likewise China may lack a legally binding target, but enjoys a comfortable lead in core technologies following decades of investment.

There’s never been a better time to ditch the net zero agenda

The cost of living crisis is confronting Westminster elites with the stark reality of some of the dubious policy choices they’ve recently made. Last week, the government was forced to postpone its ban on buy one get one free deals on ‘junk food’. The foolishness of outlawing cheap food – a policy Boris Johnson adopted after his spell in intensive care – has been laid bare now that inflation has risen to a 40-year high. Soaring energy bills ought to give proponents of eco-austerity similar pause for thought. Dozens of retail energy companies have gone bust in recent months. We are shipping fracked gas from the US while banning the

Europe is turning against net zero

The contrast couldn’t be greater. In Britain a wealthy cabinet minister goes on television to boast of how he is installing a heat pump in his home – something his government is proposing to force on millions of British homeowners over the next few years in spite of them costing many thousands of pounds more than a gas or oil boiler. Meanwhile, in France, the President makes a speech calling for a ‘regulatory pause’ on green issues in order to push for the ‘re-industrialisation’ of his country. So far, Britain and the EU have moved more or less in tandem on climate change – which is not all that surprising

Can Britain become the Saudi Arabia of carbon capture?

Boris Johnson wanted to make Britain ‘the Saudi Arabia of wind’. But Grant Shapps is keen to send Britain’s green agenda in a new direction. Speaking at The Spectator’s Energy Summit on 26 April, the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net-Zero announced the government’s ambitions for Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage – CCUS – where carbon dioxide is sucked out of the air with the aid of solvents and either put to use or buried deep in the ground where – hopefully – it will remain locked up forever after. The technology does not merely offer the chance to cut future emissions but also to remove past emissions from the

Sunak and Truss are wrong about solar

Rishi Sunak has joined Liz Truss in grumbling about solar panels in fields. This is all rather dismaying, and revealing. It suggests that Conservative leadership contenders – and the party faithful they’re appealing to – lack faith in the transformative power of markets and free enterprise. Those solar panels that Sunak and Truss deplore are nothing less than an economic miracle, delivered by private companies seeking profit. Anyone who proclaims themselves supporters of markets should be shouting from the rooftops about this miracle, since it shows how people and organisations freely allocating capital makes our world better, fast. Private enterprise works because the incentive to make a profit by selling

Boris is right to ask for Saudi oil

War and virtue don’t mix well, especially when it comes to the dirty business of energy supplies. As soon as the Ukraine situation turned nasty the UK government quietly did a turn on winding down North Sea gas, and may possibly do the same on fracking. And, having sworn off Russian hydrocarbons, Boris is now looking for urgent supplies. In doing so he is talking to some pretty doubtful regimes. Yesterday he visited Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi; he has also put out feelers to Qatar. Opposition parties have made hay. In Scotland, opposition to North Sea gas and ‘extreme fossil fuel ideology’ has come from both Nicola Sturgeon and

The true meaning of ’emergency’

Much attention has been paid to how Vladimir Putin has learnt from western weakness over his earlier invasions, including into parts of Ukraine; less to what he has learnt from Syria. He discovered that the West did not have the stomach for intervention there, and found that his own country did. He re-established Russian power in the region, including the power to influence both sides. He seems also to have learnt from his success in backing Assad that extreme brutality is effective. After much initial outrage, the West forgot about its indignation, handing victory to the Assad regime. Putin probably believes the same will happen over Ukraine. Although western anguish

Britain is paying the price for its fracking panic

Between 1980 and 2005, the UK produced more energy than it needed. Today, we import more than a third of our energy and over half of our natural gas. Households are facing an increase in their annual tax bills from £1,500 to an eye-watering £3,000. While the Business Secretary may have tweeted this week that the current situation is a matter of high prices rather than security of supply, families already struggling to heat their homes are unlikely to tell the difference as they decide whether to heat their homes or pay for food. This was never a foregone conclusion. A decade ago, the US shale gas revolution was well

Has Macron shot France’s energy industry in the foot?

Gas prices are soaring. Europe could be about to witness electricity shortages. Power companies are collapsing by the day, and, on top of all that, the government is set to phase out traditional energy to meet its net zero target.  So might think that a cable to ship in cheap, greener electricity from the other side of the Channel is something of a knight in shining armour. Yet the government blocked the proposal today, and it was absolutely right to do so. Britain may need all the electricity it can get its hands on right now — but the last thing it should do is increase its dependence on Macron and Putin. Britain

The cynical brilliance of Boris Johnson’s green conversion

Does Boris Johnson really believe, as he told COP26 a few days ago, we’re at ‘one minute to midnight’ on the man-made climate change doomsday clock, and that ‘if we don’t get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children to do so tomorrow’? I ask only because in 2013 he used his Daily Telegraph column to write:  As a species, we human beings have become so blind with conceit and self-love that we genuinely believe that the fate of the planet is in our hands – when the reality is that everything, or almost everything, depends on the behaviour and caprice of the gigantic

Net zero is a disastrous solution to a nonexistent problem

Human folly is all too common. But in a long life I have never come across anything remotely as bad as the current climate scare. The government’s COP26 targets are ambitious (and eye-wateringly expensive). Amid the debate, one important question seems to be missing. Are we really facing an existential threat? Or might the climate change ‘crisis’ in fact be quasi-religious hysteria, based on ignorance? It is true that, since the industrial revolution, when we began to use fossil fuels — first coal, then oil and gas — as our source of energy, this has led to a steady, albeit gradual, increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the

The urgent case for net zero

Earlier this year, a report from climatologists around the world made it clear that climate change is happening now and that it is almost entirely a result of human behaviour. This is not a controversial conclusion and it is not hard to explain how the report’s authors arrived at it. First, independent observations — from the ocean to the atmosphere, from poles to tropics — all show rapid and significant warming over the past century, particularly over the past few decades. Human activity has simultaneously caused a 50 per cent increase in carbon dioxide concentrations, a more than doubling of methane concentrations, and the appearance of multiple synthetic gases, all

The flaw in Britain’s net-zero plan

The COP26 summit is unlikely to be an outright flop. There has been no shortage of drama, with speakers seeming to compete with each other to see who could use the most histrionic language. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, went so far as to compare the attending leaders to Nazi appeasers. He later apologised. Some progress, albeit small, is being made. A hundred countries have been persuaded, some on the promise of sweeteners worth £14 billion, to sign a pledge to end deforestation by 2030. Brazil, the most important of all, is among them. India has agreed, for the first time, to set itself a date for achieving net-zero

Where is the climate plan B?

The COP26 summit is unlikely to be an outright flop. There has been no shortage of drama, with speakers seeming to compete with each other to see who could use the most histrionic language. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, went so far as to compare the attending leaders to Nazi appeasers. He later apologised.  Some progress, albeit small, is being made. A hundred countries have been persuaded, some on the promise of sweeteners worth £14 billion, to sign a pledge to end deforestation by 2030. Brazil, the most important of all, is among them. India has agreed, for the first time, to set itself a date for achieving net-zero

India is going to keep polluting. They can thank China

Mumbai India is the last major global polluter to set a date to go carbon neutral. In a surprise announcement on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told COP26 that his country will hit this target by 2070. That doesn’t mean India is going to start cutting emissions any time soon. India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, believes it has the right to use coal to stimulate economic growth. The country argues that its per capita consumption of non-renewables is still a fraction of West’s. Faced with the task of quadrupling its power output by 2050, the country’s coal production is expected to increase by 28 per cent over the